Women’s Lives Matter
This is an especially challenging time to be alive for everyone. Increasingly violent terrorist attacks, shifting political landscapes, environmental disasters, and overpopulation create challenges that world leaders are struggling to contain. Politicians are losing control of their electoral base, as well as their credibility. Being female in these times is even more challenging due to the challenges confronting women specifically. I daresay that running for public office for women is even more challenging for men as women are often questioned about physical issues that are completely irrelevant. Whether Hillary Clinton has a chance for election may depend on how successfully she overcomes the bias against women in national leadership roles.
One of the most prevalent challenges is gender stereotyping and minimization. Women face wage discrimination; job (hiring and promotion) discrimination; sexual exploitation; and under representation in politics and leadership. Pick any leadership position and you will find that far less than a representative number of leaders are women. The wage gap continues to exist, whether it is on Madison Avenue or in Hollywood. Female governmental officials continue to lag behind their representative base. Leadership roles are still weighted in favor of males, even though there is no real reason for that to happen.
Women’s health issues are still hugely important, both in the industrialized nations and third world countries. Prenatal care, infant and birth mortality, breast cancer, menstrual issues, unsafe labor conditions, child slavery, rape and sexual attacks frequently target women with life threatening conditions. Third world countries are particularly dangerous for women, with little or no resources to raise their situation or to combat HIV, AIDS or other STD’s. The issues of sex slaves and international sale of girls and young women have not been resolved.
Probably one of the worst issues facing women is domestic violence. Statistics indicate that 25% or more women experience domestic violence. More and more battered women’s shelters are closing due to lack of funds. Many women wait as long as three years before they report domestic violence. Female genital mutilation is still very much a global problem. Estimates suggest that as many as three million girls are mutilated every year in third world countries. Even England has estimated that as many as 170,000 women have survived this mutilations. It is ironic that many cultures overseas view women as chattel and there are completely different standards for women than men. This is barbaric.
Sex selective abortions have always been a problem in China, but the practice exists in all countries. As many as 4500 sex determined abortions were conducted in the UK even though they are illegal. In many countries women have difficulty getting free birth control, with women often forced to have abortions when they couldn’t get birth control. In the US, funding has been terminated for elective abortions, even if the abortion was necessitated by rape.
The only way to combat these problems is to make them public. Women and men must become more vocal in finding solutions to these issues that render women second-class citizens. Women must be encouraged to report these acts of violence and segregation if we are to solve these problems. Women and men must start discussion groups, contact their governmental representatives, and insist that police enforce laws prohibiting such conduct. We must encourage organizations that provide support for women and support them.
Simply not liking something is not enough. We have to start taking action to make change happen. The biggest change we can make is to stop accepting these conditions that affect women. We need to become more active in combating these situations if we are going to make a difference. As we go through the New Year, remember that there are millions of women who are being victimized, and you may even know some. Let us change how we respond to such tragedy. To re-frame a trite phrase, women’s lives matter.